Freedom’s Knife by Daphne Moore

Freedom’s Knife by Daphne Moore is a dystopian, futuristic, sci-fi, fantasy, urban fiction,

daphne

Amazon

novel.  Did I forget anything?  Daphne weaves together a story of a distant future where aliens have invaded earth and spirits demand retribution.
The MC Alys Xoticos-Quinn denies having any magical power.  Convicted of crimes, the Union chains geas inside of Alys to keep her in control.  She can’t kill, she can’t have sex with anyone unless the geas approve and she has to follow the Union rules or suffer unimaginable pain.  And she can’t flee.  The Union has the only thing that matters to Alys.  Her son.
Alys teams up with Walker, a mysterious mage to find out who has done the unthinkable and called the Windigo a spirit of eternal hunger.  Alys’s character is straightforward. You know when she wants to kill someone and you know that she loves her son.  He’s all that matters to Alys. But,  her young son is magical and the Union wants him controlled- at any cost-even his death.
The Union’s reach is long, Alys must find a way to escape with her son.
Daphne’s writing style is very compact  The plot moves along at a good clip and the magical elements are fantastic.   It’s a world where the earth has been plunged back into the 1500’s, developed magic, and has 23rd-century elements.  Really a neat read.
A 4.5 rating.

This week’s Naked Reviewers Book of the week.

https://thenakedreviewers.com/index.php/2018/12/23/smoke-and-roses-a-steampunk-language-of-flowers-by-olivia-wylie/?fbclid=IwAR2oLF74cgSKp2wrz54xjCqN0gyckC_-kkVSTmyw7Nn6Bgdt0n41eWEBR1I#comment-283

Smoke And Roses: A Steampunk Language of Flowers by Olivia Wylie

Rosemary is for remembrance. You give yellow roses to a friend and lilies to the bereaved. Ever wondered why?

In this illustrated volume you will discover the history of the symbolic code daring Victorian ladies and gents used to pass messages in bouquets: the roots of the practice in Turkey, its rise in Europe and its fascinating cultural connotations on both sides of the Atlantic. You’ll learn how a mispronounced word gave the tulip its name and why the colors of the rose have so many meanings. Included are recipes for bouquets useful in your own life, including the Bugger Off Bouquet, to be given to those you would rather not see again. Let this book lead you up the historical garden path.

A little about Olivia first:

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Olivia Wylie is a professional landscaper who specializes in the restoration of neglected gardens in Downtown Denver. She snaps photos of garden beauty in her daily work and uses rain days, the photos and research to create art that shares the serenity of the green world with its viewers. On days when the weather keeps her indoors, she writes about the relationship between humanity and the green world. She currently has two ethnobotanic works in print: ‘Smoke and Roses’ and the book Roots: Insights From the Tree Alphabet of Old Ireland’. A book on the history of weeds in America is forthcoming in March. Her works are available at www.leafingoutgardening.com as well as Amazon.

Terence Vicker’s Review: 4-Stars

Smoke and Roses by Olivia Wylie
Smoke and Roses is an interesting look into the meaning behind flowers and the history behind them. The introduction is the most interesting part to me as I enjoy reading about the history behind the flower meanings.

The illustrations appear to be hand drawn and painted, possibly watercolors and with the background of the page and the graphics, it gives the impression of an old book with a certain rustic charm.

I was a bit disappointed that there was no history behind the individual flowers included.

Generally an interesting book and a good reference for those giving or receiving bouquets.

Diane Andersen’s Review: 5-Stars

A Steampunk Language of Flowers by Olivia Wylie

If you’ve ever wondered about how to design the perfect bouquet of flowers for a certain occasion or a special person in your life, look no further than this book. Forget those dry dusty botanical textbooks your garden-loving grandfather may have handed down to you. This one is a feast for the eyes with its delightful original illustrations that look like an illuminated edition from the 18th century, something one might find in a rare book room of a botanical garden research library or the English estate of a wealthy collector.

This book would make a great gift for anyone interested in botanicals or the history of flowers and the Victorian custom of sending messages via a carefully orchestrated bouquet. Do you want to convey your gratitude to someone special? Send them a bunch of bluebells or rather Hyacinthoides non-scripta, if you prefer knowing the scientific Latin term. Are you feeling a bit oppressed and want to send a clear message that says: “Let justice be done”? Then the perfect choice is a handful of black-eyed Susans, also known as rudbeckia, and not to be “rude” by any means, as some have mistaken the play on its name. Just be direct and to the point, which is precisely what Wylie has done in both her visual and verbal descriptions, some only taking up a mere paragraph to describe the history and purpose of each flower.

Wylie’s lushly illustrated book with pages that look like aged parchment almost feels as if you can smell the musty crackle of each leaf, even on the ebook. Although the paperback edition is a bit pricey at $25 it would still make a welcome gift for a favorite gardener, history buff or trivia fan. Although there isn’t much in the way of “steampunk” marked within the text, the old-fashioned charm and title make this the perfect accessory for any Steampunk LARPer on your list.

Please feel free to share your review in the comments.

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Radio Nowhere, Full review

 

Radio Nowhere by Lee Beard

Review of Radio Nowhere by Lee Beard, presented by Author RA Winter.

 

After 99.9% of the earth’s population – and apparently, all the adults – dies in just under a month, the remaining teens and children are left confused, scattered, and dangerously unsupervised. A tech-savvy latchkey kid, an abused arsonist, and a girl who slept through the apocalypse must battle the elements, wild animals, and roving bands of feral children in order to reach their refuge. Deep in Oklahoma lies the small college town of Nowhere; there, a mysterious old man broadcasts to them via the college radio station, beckoning them to safety.

 

 

 

 

Radio Nowhere is a sci-fi thriller about a very real threat of a Pandemic.

I’m really loving this story.  It’s very captivating and I’m rating it high as a must-read for those who love apocalyptic stories.  I read mine on my smartphone on a kindle app.

To me, the story moved me.  A Pandemic starts slowly, and we never know where or when it will hit. We follow different people and really get to know them.  Each one is touched differently by the events that are unfolding.

Really loving this one. There were a few small formatting issues, nothing too major, but like I said, I was reading it on my phone. I’m sure the author will fix any of those piddly formatting issues but it was still very readable on my smartphone.

The author wrote it in Omni and really pulled it off well.  It’s one of the best Omni pov that I’ve seen in a while and I’ve seen a few and threw them away.  This one is a keeper.

The events unfold in an alternate view by different MC’s and we see how their lives are touched and how they die during a short period.

This one ends on a cliff-hanger, and I’m looking forward to the rest.

Fast-paced, there is never a dull moment.  Truly one to have handy on a rainy afternoon.

Just loving it.  4.7 Stars!

I really must take a moment to apologize to the author for being late on my review.  Events snuck up on me, and I’m a day late, but boy, this one was worth the wait.

Biography

Lee Beard, author of Radio Nowhere, lives in the piney woods of East Texas with sibling, Carter, and their menagerie of pets. Lee spends much of the average day writing, and is currently working on the second novel in the “uplifting apocalyptic” Radio Series, Radio Static. When not writing, Lee enjoys reading short stories and comic books, as well as leatherworking and dabbling in as many hobbies as possible.

Review of Radio Nowhere by The Naked Reviewers

Sherry and Heather give it high marks.  I’m really loving this story.  It’s very captivating and I’m rating it higher than those two.  I read mine on my phone on a kindle app. via Radio Nowhere by Lee Beard

To me, the story moved me.  A Pandemic, we follow different people and really get to know them.  Each one is touched differently by the events that are unfolding.

Really loving this one.  I’m sure the author will fix any of those piddly formatting issues but it was very readable on my smartphone.

The author wrote it in Omni and really pulled it off well.  It’s one of the best Omni pov that I’ve seen in a while.

Fast-paced, there is never a dull moment.  Truly one to finish on a rainy afternoon.

Just loving it.

Tuesday Cross-Of Flesh and Fire Book 1, The First Chapter

Today, I’m posting a very special First Chapter.  Tuesday Cross’s Of Flesh and Fire. This is an excellent fantasy.  I’ve read it twice now…seriously. All the pieces of a fantastic plot come together with mystery,  love, vampires, dragons, and a werewolf best friend!

On Wednesday, I’ll be leaving my review on NakedReviewers..  For now, I’ll leave you with a taste of Tuesday’s writing.  Enjoy!

Of Flesh and Fire - Book I: Everything Will Burn by [Cross, Tuesday]Vampires, werewolves, and dragons… oh my!

Looking for an action packed twist on paranormal fantasy with a touch of romance?

‘Of Flesh and Fire – Book I’ by Tuesday Cross delivers a fast-paced fantasy adventure,
perfect for adults of all ages. If you enjoy vampires, werewolves, and DRAGONS… you’ll love this story.

CHAPTER 0
MY FIRST DEATH

 

I lay there, trying my hardest not to choke. The heavy scent of smoke invaded my body, coating my lungs, stifling me. All around me were the sounds of screaming, sobbing, and fire– my body shivered involuntarily. I shifted my focus back to breathing, trying to quiet my body’s urge to stand up and run. I won’t be able to do anything if fear gets the better of me.  Anger flashed hot in my stomach. After everything I’ve done to get my life back, here it is. Ending. The beam overhead groaned like some sort of wounded animal, making me flinch. Clenching my eyes shut, I dove into my memories. Any event of my past was better than what was about to become my last.

 

I’m six years old, sitting in Ms. Carla’s tidy sun-bleached office. I lightly swing my legs back and forth, listening to the rhythmic ba-bump, ba-bump as my heels bounce off the base of the bench. Behind me, through the door, I can just make out the whispers of my foster parents. They don’t say it outright, but I can tell. They don’t like me. Ms.Carla, lovely as always, encourages them to keep trying. Keep up with the counseling. Every child needs a forever-home after all, and who said adoption was going to be easy?

 

I’m twelve years old, running through the woods. My foster brother is laughing, but we’re not having fun. I’m frightened because I know how this game ends. Doubling back I head for my secret hiding spot, and while crossing over the rocks I make a stupid mistake. Trying to jump too fast, my shoelace snags on a fallen branch. I try to catch myself, but tumble heavily into the deep crevasse beneath my destination. If I hadn’t had been so afraid, I wouldn’t have rushed. I spent hours fuming and nursing a sprained arm before the fire department found me. Shortly afterwards my foster ‘parents’ shut me in my room as punishment for wasting everyone’s time.

 

I’m seventeen, crouched in the dusty attic, pouring over my collection of contraband. Wonder Woman and Supergirl– I soaked up the adventures depicted on the black and white pages. My name had been repeated, growing steadily louder and louder for the last five minutes. The heavy footsteps of the man I was supposed to call father reverberated below. It was only a matter of time before he thought to check the attic, and found me and my treasures. Sighing, I carefully tucked three favorites into the bag by my feet. The footsteps halted directly beneath the attic door, but it didn’t matter. I was out the window, down the lattice, and into the night– like the monsters I was leaving behind had never existed at all.

 

And now I’m here. What a stupid situation. I shouldn’t have come to this town. I shouldn’t have stayed here so long. I’m an idiot for thinking I could make a life here. I opened my eyes and stared into the flames, defiant. If my life’s about to end,  I’m going to watch it go.

 

Finally, the groaning beam cracked and gave-way.

Delivering me to the darkness.

CHAPTER 1
REVEALED BY FIRE

MILDRED MIDWOOD

 

Dusk came and went, and a dewy midnight settled like a blanket over the grounds of Rowling-Burroughs University. In the Eastern Quarter of the Historic wing, Headmistress Mildred Midwood sat stiffly behind her desk. Her brown eyes focused on the map spread out before her. Her face was calm, but she drummed her nails against the wood of her desk. A light knock at the door pulled her out of concentration, and Midwood’s eyes shot up to meet a gentle gaze she knew well.

“Professor Starling, it’s late you know,” Midwood said quietly.

“Mildred, there’s another fire,” he replied.

“Where?”

“In the village, at a home for young women.”

Midwood’s nostrils flared. She knew exactly which home Starling referred to.

“And you’re here about it in the middle of the night because–”

“It’s happening as we speak,” Starling answered.

Midwood stood and turned, disappearing into the air with a loud crack, leaving only the smell of burning ozone behind.

 

Midwood reappeared in the shadows, a safe distance from the frantic scene unfolding before her. Even from her position across the street, Midwood felt the searing heat clawing her face. Looking left and right, Midwood observed nothing else out of the ordinary. Silent cars stood sentinel along the street and a cool breeze played through the leaves of the trees.

Everything was as it should be, except for the structure in front of her. It was burning at temperatures so obscene that the flames were a ghostly blue-white. The brave men of Vernon Village’s Fire Department worked diligently, but the fire carried on, unaffected.

Thank the gods this street had been evacuated. The fewer witnesses, the better.

Spreading her arms out by her sides, palms facing the blaze, Midwood hummed low and deep. The sound reverberated through her sternum, growing louder until it matched the cracking and whipping of the flames. A soft grey light emanated from her palms as Midwood took slow steps into the middle of the damp street. One by one the men of VVFD ceased their work, whispering amongst themselves. Midwood did not see them. In fact, she could not see them. Her eyes were rendered useless as her inner eye focused on the fire, seeking its source. It was as if the flames were alive, eluding her efforts to snuff them out.

Fire magic. The thought chilled Midwood to her core, and she redoubled her efforts to douse the flames. Midwood advanced to the sidewalk in front of the building, the ghastly blue flames illuminating her ebony skin. The men of VVFD remained glued to the spot, unable to tear their eyes away. Midwood clasped her hands violently together in front of her heart, snuffing out the raging blaze– the force of her efforts knocking her to the ground.

Stunned, the firefighters looked to the structure, and back to her. A tall, bear of a man came forward to help her to her feet. Midwood was not a frightening woman to behold, yet she saw a glimmer of fear in his eyes as he hoisted her up.

“Chief Johnston, thank you,” Midwood said, brushing off her skirt.

“Well Headmistress, it’s you we ought to thank,” he mumbled.

It was obvious to Midwood that as usual Johnston was polite, but not out of respect.

Whispers from the men rose in the background. (These lot only get involved when something’s wrong) – (I don’t like it, we shouldn’t have to owe them anything.) – (How do we know that she didn’t set the fire to begin with?) She shrugged off their words. If her suspicions were correct, then the current situation was much more important than normal vs supernatural politics.

“If you don’t mind, Chief, I need to inspect the ashes.”

“Ma’am! We’ve been fighting this fire for hours, and the whole time it’s been burning hotter than the bloody sun. You’re not going to find anything in there.”

“All the same, I would like to have a look around.”

“It’s not safe.”

“Chief.” Midwood looked him square in the eye. “I’ll be fine.”

Johnston huffed and stood out of the way, gesturing towards the smoldering remains. Midwood nodded politely, hiked up her skirt, and made her way inside.

The stench of smoke enveloped her as she waded through the destruction. It pained her to know how many people must have died, their bones turned to dust. As she made her way to the center of the cinders, Midwood couldn’t shake the feeling of dread which had taken root within her. She thought back to the orphanage she inspected after it burnt, and then the hostel. No survivors.  Someone is targeting these places. but they wouldn’t continue if they had already found what they were looking for… If I’m right. Stopping for a moment to release her skirt from a piece of twisted steel, something caught Midwood’s eye. Laying under the ashen remains of a structural beam, as if asleep, was a young woman. Her skin smooth and milky white, untouched by the violence.

The gods have mercy!  Bending down, Midwood gathered the naked form in her arms, lifting her up with the strength of a much younger woman. Blocked from the sight of Chief Johnston and his men, Midwood turned on the spot, disappearing with her precious cargo into the heavy night air.  

 

 

 

Bowman’s Inn 2017 Autumn-Winter Anthology

Today, a very special Anthology hit Amazon which I am very proud to be a part of.  The Bowman’s Inn 2017 Autumn-Winter Anthology is live today.  Grab your copy today at http://amzn.to/2iNoigM

 

 

Werewolves, gods, goddesses and the Fates are back!!

The weather may have cooled, but it’s always heating up at The Bowman’s Inn!

This is the final volume from The Bowman’s Collective, but our authors will still be visiting Anteros on their own from time to time.

This is my second go at an anthology short story.  In this anthology, I retrieved two favorite characters and put them in a hilarious situation with steamy consequences.   Han and Ann are back, and at some point, they will have their own novel.

There are some lovely authors snuggled into this book.  I consider every one of them dear friends.  I would like to point out, K. C. Freeman,‎ E.D. Vaughn,‎ Roxanna Haley and  D.L. Hungerford.  Each of them is wonderful.

K.C. and I have been writing together for a while now.  Through a collection of six books, a novella, and two short stories.  Now, we are working on more.  K.C. is fabulous and you’ll love her debut story in the Bowman’s Inn. She’s been a true friend and keeps me on track with my writing.  She’s completed three books which will be published soon, and I hope she will allow me to showcase them on here.  Before writing under her name, she ghostwrote for other authors. Check out her writing style and see if you can guess who it was, because I can’t, and she won’t tell.  (I’ve tried, believe me, I’ve tried.)

E.D. Vaughn is great.  She’s the werewolf among us, the shapeshifting writer who keeps us entertained over many volumes of the Bowman’s Inn.  You can often catch us together on Facebook, having some fun together.  Her stories will keep you entertained and needing more. This book wraps up the series for the werewolves and the ending is fabulous.

I’d also like to thank D. L. Hungerford and Roxanna Haley for their wonderful looks at romance in each novel and for the chance to write for them.  D. L. is a romance writer extraordinaire who mentors lots of new writers.  You can catch her on Scribophile.com or on Facebook.

Above all, pick up the new copy and leave your comments.  I’d love to hear them.

 

The First Chapter-Author Showcase- S.J. Lem

Today’s first chapter is something a little different.  It’s YA Science Fiction & Fantasy, and this one proves to be a page-turner!

 

All eighteen-year-old Ri wants is to cure her adoptive father Samuel from his hallucination-inducing illness. Everyone in her village tells her it’s impossible. But when she meets two newcomers in the forest—a gruff rogue with a vendetta against the gods and a charming fugitive with the power to travel through water—she’ll be torn away from Samuel and swept across the sea to an oppressed city governed by a ruthless tyrant. Once there, she’ll not only have to confront Samuel’s unlawful past, but a vicious evil that threatens all mankind.

In this tale of bravery, friendship, and unexpected love, Ri must discover her own strength to save the men she cares for.

 

 

The Waterfall Traveler

Chapter 1

No, no, no! How could I have slept so soundly while Samuel wandered out of our home? I swung my cottage’s door open and bolted outside. The morning sun peeked over the mountains and cast soft light onto my cliff-top village. Everyone was still asleep. Samuel’s tracks imprinted the dusty ground. They meandered through his garden, past neighboring thatch-roofed homes, and led into the forest.

Dammit! Of all places for him to roam. The forest was full of dangerous things: pumas searching for their next kill, rocks that protruded near neck-breaking slopes, and berries that could lull a man into permanent slumber.

But Samuel didn’t understand this. He had the Sickness. Some folks called him a burden. Others prayed for the day he would leave. But I’ve set those fools straight on more than one occasion.

I dashed onward and followed his footprints, scattering a cluster of chickens along the way. What if he was injured? Or worse? I raced past the perimeter of the village and reached the forest’s edge. Spruce trees rose into the sky, spreading their needled branches like raven feathers.

I threw a stone into the woodlands and it bounced off a tree. “Wake up!”

If anyone saw me shouting into the forest, they would have thought I had the Sickness too. I didn’t, of course.

“Where are you?” I tossed another rock into the branches. This time, I got their attention.

Seven orbs, roughly the size of my fist, drifted from the treetops, radiating amber light. These orbs visited me—and only me—since childhood. When I was young, they comforted me during storms as Death lit up the sky in search of souls. When I reached the age to hunt, they showed me the best places to set my snares, and I always returned home with plenty. I didn’t know what they were, but I named them the Fireflies.

They whooshed into the forest, zigzagging around trees like a ribbon of light, and I chased them down a familiar path. My hair whipped behind me, bound in a brown braid that hung to my waist. As I raced on, the canopy of pine needles sucked me back into the night. Owls, fooled by the darkness, still hooted threats at mice cowering in the brush.

Before long, patches of light dabbed the forest floor. New grass poked through the black dirt until lush growth overtook the ground. We had reached a clearing. The Fireflies shot upward and disappeared.

I crouched behind a tree and scanned the area. A stream fed by a gentle waterfall carved the clearing in half. I breathed a sigh of relief when Samuel paced into view.

He looked older than his fifty-five years and hobbled with a hunch. Only a few tufts of white hair traced the lower regions of his scalp. He lost his left arm long ago, though he couldn’t remember how. His sleeve knotted around the stub at his shoulder. Ricky, his gray mutt, pranced at his feet, intent on tripping him. But Samuel didn’t seem to notice. He gestured wildly, mumbling his usual gibberish.

“Samuel,” I called. With one last glance around the clearing, I rushed to his side.

He jerked his head in surprise. “Oh my, I didn’t see you there, Ri.” Smiling, he waved for me to join him.

He spoke in his native language, which I had learned by the age of seven. Our village called it the Crooked Tongue. Though Samuel raised me, we were not related. Fourteen years ago, a vicious beast killed my parents, so Samuel took me as ward when I was four years old. I remembered nothing of the incident or my family, but the beast had left a crescent-shaped scar on my back. I shivered whenever my fingers brushed against it.

“You promised that you wouldn’t roam into the forest anymore.” I disliked taking such a stern tone with him, but I meant it for his own good.

“Oh.” He scratched his chin, disheveling his short beard. “I promised that?”

“It’s all right, let’s head back.”

“Ah, but we don’t want to miss this.” His grin stretched across his face. “No, we definitely don’t want to miss this.”

As a youngster, I had listened to his storytelling long after the sun disappeared behind the mountains. His voice rallied with similar enthusiasm this morning, and I couldn’t stop myself from asking, “Miss what?”

“I’ll tell you, but don’t go gabbing about this to anyone. Least not until we have the proof. This is quite extraordinary, and you know how the village is. No vision. Not like you and me.”

“I won’t go gabbing.”

“Well, this clearing hosts something unimaginable, an act of the goddess Eisanea, herself. I know it’s Eisanea. There’s no other explanation.” He raised his arm toward the sky for emphasis. “It’s not some figment of Crazy Samuel’s imagination this time.”

“You’re not crazy.”

I hated the nicknames the villagers called him. To them, we were outcasts and outsiders. My original village lay somewhere on the island’s western lowlands, but I’ve never attempted to visit it. Samuel’s village—which he called a city—was to the east across Wind Serpent Sea. Both were places I only knew through stories. Occasionally, he would recall details about his homeland, though the Sickness robbed him of most of his memories.

“What’d you see?” I asked.

A wrinkle deepened between his eyebrows. “Well, give an old man a minute. Just need to collect my thoughts. You know how they abandon me sometimes.” He sat down on a log and stared at a river stone as if it would give him an answer.

I took a seat and rested my head on his shoulder. Our reflections wiggled on the stream’s surface. Before Samuel’s hair paled and fell out, it was wavy and black and touched the top of his shoulders. I used to admire it, along with his blue eyes. My reflection, lanky and lean, blended in with those of the cattails surrounding us.

“It’s all right if you don’t remember.” I patted his knee.

“Ah, this must be it.” His gaze landed on a patch of tall grass dotted with red blossoms. He struggled to his feet and plucked a flower out of the batch. With an ungraceful bow, he presented it to me. “This must be why I’ve come here, because what can be more spectacular than the first blooms of spring?”

I accepted the gift, twirling the stem between my fingertips. “Samuel,” I began, “you can’t enter the forest alone anymore. There’s dangers.”

“I’m not alone. Ricky is with me.” His crow’s feet fanned as his face widened in a smile.

I gave Ricky to Samuel because I thought he would make a good guard dog. Ricky lacked any qualities resembling bravery, but his antics entertained us. Samuel and I watched him paddle his oversized paws in a mud puddle. He sifted his nose through the water and, with a snort, snatched something up. His teeth clanked against the object.

“What’d he find?” I asked. “Ricky, here.”

His head drooped as he trotted over to me. He spat something hard into my hand before lying down and feigning indifference toward the treasure he sacrificed. I wiped the filth off with the cuff of my sleeve and examined the item.

“Glass,” I said, astounded.

On my seventh birthday, Samuel gave me a compass with a glass face. A rare treasure, indeed! It came from his homeland, and no one in our village had ever owned one. The needle pointed west. How it worked, I didn’t know. But sometimes, I suspected that Samuel came from a magical place where everyone owned such amazing contraptions. I carried the compass in my pocket, always.

“A glass jar.” I showed it to Samuel.

“No,” he said. “That’s a glass vial.”

His eyebrows sprung into round arches. “Yes, of course. I remember now. There’s a handsome young man,” he said, “and he appears out of nowhere. Bursts right through that waterfall over there.” He pointed toward the cascade at the edge of the clearing.

“Samuel,” I said, “handsome young men don’t just burst out of waterfalls.”

“Yes, peculiar, isn’t it? He has a knapsack. It’s empty when he arrives and stuffed full when he departs.”

“Is that all you saw?”

“Well, I think so.” He smoothed his beard while scanning the clearing. “I wonder where that lad could’ve wandered off to.”

I smiled. Fortunately, his mind only conjured up a harmless hallucination rather than the usual skeletal ghouls that hurl him into fits of panic. My village called his ailment mind sickness for a long time, and later just referred to it as the Sickness.

“Let’s head back.” I stood and helped Samuel to his feet. “I’ll make us breakfast.”

Samuel turned toward the waterfall and waved. “Until next time Waterfall Man.” Ricky added two barks, wagging his tail with enthusiasm.

The noise frightened some birds out of the branches. I glanced around and listened for other creatures. On the opposite side of the clearing, the Fireflies hovered over the brush. Their energy seeped into the space sheltered by my rib cage and tugged, urging me to follow them deeper into the forest. Instead, I hastened toward Samuel and caught his hand mid-wave. The Fireflies had to wait until I led Samuel to safety.

 

***

 

Overlaid with vines, a log archway served as the entrance to the village. A pair of sparrows greeted us as we slipped through, but not a single villager dawdled nearby. A few paces beyond the entry, an abandoned garment hung over the rim of a wash bucket.

We slipped past a couple homes and reached the courtyard. A dozen people huddled in a circle at its far end. They wore linen and leather that matched the dust underfoot. Someone in the center of the mob was bawling. Samuel paused, staring at the commotion.

“Who’s that yelling over there?” He placed his hand over his brow to block the sun.

I tugged him along by the arm. “No one. It’s only someone’s goat bleating.”

Of course, it wasn’t a goat. But it was best to keep Samuel away from crowds to protect his feelings from their ridicule.

I nudged him onward. While the other homes nestled side by side, ours sat on its own plot at the western most edge of the village. We had a prime view. Our village had earned the name Red Ridge since it sprawled along the top of a red rock cliff, and Samuel and I could see the entire valley from our doorway. The vale was a bowl of evergreens and haze.

I led Samuel inside. He shuffled across the stone floor and eased himself onto a stool next to the hearth. While he caught his breath, I hurried past our bedrooms to a storage closet to fetch something to eat. The harsh winter had drained us of almost everything except for a half-dozen potatoes, a handful of beets, and two bottles of our homemade dandelion wine.

I grabbed a potato for Samuel and tossed it into a pot of water over the fire. Then, I peeked out the window. The crowd had doubled.

I went to Samuel and braced his shoulders. “Can you watch that potato for me?”

“Of course, sweetie. I won’t let that tater flee the kettle.” He looked at the pot with unwavering attention, and I ran out the door, securing the outside latch with rope so he couldn’t wander off again.

The mob didn’t notice when I approached. The howling had quieted to a sob. I stood on my tiptoes to see over all the heads. Kaylan, a tall man of about fifty, knelt next to an old fellow who had a ten-inch gash below his knee. A satchel hung at Kaylan’s hip, full of medical supplies. Blood covered his hands.

“You’re a darn fool,” Kaylan said to the man as he stitched the wound. “You should know better than to travel at night. You’re lucky you made it back this morning.”

The old fellow stared at him with teary, vacant eyes and nodded. I sneezed.

A young man turned his head and locked a vindictive gaze on me. “Where’s Crazy Samuel?” the oaf asked. He had thin lips and big teeth. With a chuckle, he placed his hand behind his back and started hobbling back and forth, mumbling nonsense. A couple of people in the crowd laughed.

I slapped him across the face. “At least he’s not an ignorant fool.”

The man raised his hand to me, but Kaylan broke out of the crowd and intervened. “Boy, the girl is right. I can stitch a gash and bring down a fever, but there’s not a damn thing I can do for dumb.”

The oaf gave me a look that hinted of future retribution before storming off. No one ever talked back to Kaylan since his skills tending injuries and illnesses were extraordinary.

Kaylan wiped his hands clean with a rag and then regarded the wounded man. “You’ll be fine. Keep it bandaged and stay out of the woods.”

He patted me on the shoulder and with a clever look in his gray eyes, he whispered, “Next time make a fist and aim for the nose.”

Seemed like good advice to me. We walked away from the crowd and toward my home.

“What attacked that man?” I asked.

Kaylan cleared his throat. “He wouldn’t say. He kept rambling about nightmares. I suppose the gash matched what a wild dog could do, but …” We reached my door. “Ri, listen to me. Soon as the sky hints at dusk, you make sure you’re back in this village from now on. Do you understand? Something dangerous is out there.”

I nodded and opened the door, following Kaylan inside. Samuel’s eyes widened with glee when he realized he had a guest. Kaylan and his twin boys—who were roughly my age—were the only people who ever visited us.

“Would you mind staying with Samuel for a while?” I asked. “We’re practically down to our last potato.” Without waiting for his reply, I retrieved one of the bottles of dandelion wine and wrestled with the cork. Once removed, I poured the sweet drink into a mug.

“Well, how can I refuse now?” Kaylan grinned and grabbed the mug.

As he took a sip, I whispered in his ear, “Yesterday, Samuel talked about his homeland. Just random details as usual, but there was something different this time. A sort of clarity in his eyes.”

Kaylan raised a hand to shush me. “Ri, I know what you’re getting at. An illness of the mind can’t be cured. We’ve been through this.”

“Nonsense. One day I’ll cure him.”

He touched my arm and softened his tone. “One day you’ll need to accept the truth.”

“I better check on that potato.” I huffed to the hearth and removed the pot. The people in Samuel’s former village probably knew how to cure him. While I placed the potato on a plate and chopped it into wedges, Kaylan took a seat on the stool opposite Samuel. My mouth salivated as the aroma of food reached my nose.

“Ri, I didn’t mean to upset you,” Kaylan added. “But I would hate to see you get your hopes up.”

Hope was all I had.

Samuel exchanged a baffled glance with each of us. I looked at my feet. How rude we were to talk about him as if he weren’t even in the room.

Kaylan cleared his throat. “Why don’t you go gather more food? I’ll stay here.”

I sighed, releasing my frustration, and handed Samuel his food. Then, I scooped up a small basket and my fishing pole before dashing outside. I raced through the courtyard, under the archway, and back to the clearing where I found Samuel earlier.

A patch of grass near the streambed invited me over. I cast my line and then secured the end of my fishing pole into the mud. While the hook waited for a nibble, I wandered over to a nearby blueberry bush. A few crushed berries lay scattered on the ground. I grumbled. Some animal had beaten me to the grub.

Regardless, I bent down and sifted through the leaves, rummaging for whatever remained. Not one berry left. I sat back on my heels and stared at the ground. Someone’s footprint lay in the mud. Judging by the size, it belonged to a man. Odd horizontal ridges spanned across the footprint’s length. Only one shoemaker lived in my village, and the soles he crafted were soft leather that made flat, smooth tracks. So whom could this track belong to? An outsider? I touched the unusual print, and moist dirt clung to my fingertips. It was fresh.

A tug on my line jolted me from my investigation.

I pulled in a small trout and tossed it into my basket. When I looked up, the Fireflies flew past my line of sight. They hovered at the opposite side of the clearing, waiting. With pole and basket in hand, I followed them, hoping they had found a blueberry bush that no one had foraged through yet.

The Fireflies wove around the trees, and I chased them down a deer trail until it disappeared into the brush. I trampled brambles underfoot, forcing my way through a forest that now seemed intent on stopping me. Above, the sun buried herself behind a heap of gray clouds. I stopped running and stumbled backward. I had accidently entered the section of the forest known as the Dark Woods. Here, the nocturnal hunters never slept, for it was always night.

Despite the dangers, the Fireflies dove into the wretched place, pausing to float above a cream-colored object poking through the dirt. It lay roughly twenty steps ahead.

“No, absolutely not.” I wagged a finger at them. “This is a bad idea.” I stepped away, but they whizzed toward me, circled my waist once, and then returned to the object. They had never done that before.

“What’s gotten into you?” I asked.

They swarmed over the object like bees buzzing around a hive. The item they discovered must have been something of value.

“All right, but only for a moment. This is dangerous.”

I stepped forward. No light trickled through the ceiling of tangled branches and cobwebs. Ivory mushrooms clung to trees that twisted their roots into a rug of endless black dirt.

When I approached, the Fireflies zoomed farther into the Dark Woods. As small as they were, they sure were brave, or at least reckless. They led me to the glistening object, half buried in the dirt. I bent down and touched the thing and it coated my fingertip with clear ooze that reeked like a carcass in the summer. Cringing, I dug it free. The gooey film covered the entire object, so removing the filth required a few wipes. After cleaning one side, I identified it: a human jawbone. I hurled the grotesque thing to the ground, and it showed me a grin full of missing teeth.

A crow squawked. The vile birds lined the branches, screeching and cocking their ugly heads, but the Fireflies lured me onward. And they had never led me wrong.

Though my knees trembled, I followed my glowing companions farther into the Dark Woods. I held my breath and grasped the handle of my basket so tight that it cut into my palm. Then, without warning, the Fireflies flitted off like a school of startled minnows. I staggered backward. Something moved, roughly twenty feet ahead. A man.

I leapt to the cover of a nearby tree and pressed my back against its trunk. Bark dug into my shoulder blades, but I stayed still. His footsteps neared. I peeked around the tree.

Only fifteen strides separated me from the stranger. He fussed with a canteen attached to his belt. Sweat stains soiled his shirt, which draped in tatters over the waist of his hole-ridden pants. Two sheathed weapons hung from his belt: a dagger and a sword with an ornate handle. Though I had never seen a sword, Samuel taught me about them. A knot coiled in my stomach.

He brought the canteen to his lips. His bristle-covered throat pulsed with each gulp. He took two more steps in my direction, kicking the jawbone along the way with a whoop. A man who showed such disrespect for the dead was mad. I ducked back behind the tree.

His footsteps continued to approach, snapping twigs. I should have run. Instead I froze, heart pounding. He made his way to my side of the tree, inches from where I stood. He sneered, crinkling his blood-spattered face.

“Well, well,” he said, speaking in Samuel’s native language. “A little bird flew too far from her nest.”

 

Wasn’t that a wonderful First Chapter.  Loving it.

 

 

 

 

Author Showcase-Sue Seabury- Shear Luck

This week, I’m honored to host Sue Seabury’s first chapter.  I love her writing and her characters.  The humor is top-notch, too.

 

 

 

It’s sheer luck when the Queen of Coiffure books the wrong flight and meets Mr. Mane Attraction.

Kandi is all set to open the hottest hair salon in West Hollywood. The only thing she needs is a teensy bit of cash to cover the rent. Should be no harder than trimming up split ends with all the investors headed to the First Annual Hairstravaganza in Juno Beach, Florida.

One minor hitch: she booked a flight to Juneau, Alaska.

All return flights are booked for the next few days, but Kandi is confident everything will work out. In the meantime, fate has placed a gorgeous man with the most amazing head of hair in her path, perfect for promo photos.

Mario can’t wait to leave weird, smoggy LA behind and return to his true calling: building a community center for his tribe of Tlingit Indians. The last thing he wants is a gal with a turkey on her head. But he can’t leave her stranded on the curb.

While Mario fights to stop his uncle from putting a strip mall on the sacred land and Kandi texts her thumbs down to nubs trying to keep rivals from renting her salon out from under her, their growing attraction proves a distraction neither wants.

Then again, maybe each has exactly what the other needs.

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And now to the First Chapter.

 

 

 

Shear Luck
by
Sue Seabury

Kandi
Three things that have never failed me in life: the Golden Rule, intuition, and my stainless seven-inch barber shears. Due to some silly airline regulation, I had to put the shears in my checked bag, but I always have the other two at the ready. Good thing the current hair emergency doesn’t require scissors.
The mussed section of the gentleman’s careful comb-over is positively heartbreaking. His cane is jutting out in the aisle as well. In one smooth motion, I reposition the cane and the offending lock of hair. Crisis averted.
“Allow me.” I place his rolling suitcase in the overhead bin for good measure.
“Thank you, erm, miss.” His squint seems mistrustful, although I use the utmost care.
I hope I didn’t insult his manhood. He must be as old as my Grandpa Kimball. It’s only right for the able-bodied to lend a hand. “You’re welcome.”
On the way to my seat, I stow luggage for an over-processed permanent wave, a shaggy mullet, and a bowl cut. Is this flight going to Florida or 1982?
The thanks I received may have been lukewarm, but the universe repays me by placing the most gorgeous hair I have ever seen outside Fresno’s Sixth Annual Wig Convention in my row. A luscious black curtain that falls to his waist. Now that’s what I call serendipity.
Might he be headed to the HairStravaganza too? I never tire of talking shop, but it’ll have to wait until I resolve the more pressing matter of my missing business partner.
No space left in the overhead bin for my own bag after all my good deeds. That’s okay. I’d rather keep my things close at hand. With a conspiratorial wink at my seatmate to initiate the connection, I crane my neck to see around the plodding line of passengers. Still no Candy. Where can she be?
I know the announcement said to turn off all devices, but we’re not moving yet. Anyway, this call is très important.
The stewardess in desperate need of a root touch-up is headed my way again. She probably wants to thank me for helping out, but she seemed a touch hostile toward technology when I tried to make a call while boarding. I duck.
Due to a miscalculation of the distance between myself and Mr. Mane Attraction, I bonk my nose on his shoulder that is apparently made from rocks. Although literally and figuratively on the edge of my seat with my business partner about to miss our flight, I am a professional to the core. With a quick rub to the injured part, I pull out my sweetest the-customer-is-always-right smile. “Sorry.”
He stares at me as if I just told him I enjoy murdering kittens in my spare time. The first person in my twenty-eight years on the planet to be impervious to my charm. No matter. I brought plenty of fashion magazines to study during the flight.
Candy finally answers. We’re hair and name twins. I whisper, “Where are you?”
“Stuck at security. Something about my ionic curlers.”
“Well hurry up already! I’m in seat —” I tilt my head to read the number but that frizzy-haired stewardess is back again. It’s like she has nothing better to do than walk up and down the aisle.
Desperate times. I slip a handful of those tremendous tresses over my face, then separate the strands enough to peek through.
“Twenty-seven B,” is all I have time to say before the stewardess swoops in. She actually crosses her arms and taps her foot like a grammar school principal. Very unprofessional.
“Gottagobye.” I click off but stay concealed in the borrowed hair blind. The scent is exotic, spicy and vaguely savage. Would be sexy if it weren’t for the frown. He’s making the same face as Frizzy even though I’m taking care not to tug. Few people have more respect for hair than I.
Frizzy isn’t doing herself any favors by making that face. Wrinkles already started even though I wouldn’t put her much past thirty. If she doesn’t knock it off and get serious about an age-defying skin care routine, she’s going to have a permanent eleven etched into her forehead. Not a good look on anyone.
The hair blind, while an extremely pleasant place to pass the time, is clearly not working. A few strands stick to my Siren Red ‘Perfect Pout’ lipgloss I wore to prevent dehydration during the flight. A strand gets caught in my mouth triggering my gag reflex, but neither the stewardess nor my seatmate seems interested in helping me. Without a single sign of sympathy over my potentially fatal coughing fit, she extends a hand. Her nails are done in last year’s ‘Checkmate.’
“Hand it over.” Her brassy name tag flashes in the florescent light. ‘Britanni.’
Where was Britanni while I was doing her job loading all those people’s bags into the overhead bins? Not taking care of her hair, that’s for sure. She could use deep conditioning treatment in addition to the touch-up. No wonder she’s in such a foul mood. I wish I had a sample of Tahitian flower oil on me. “What exactly is it you’re looking for?”
She rolls her eyes. Someone just lost a star off her customer satisfaction rating. “Your phone.”
“What’s the number? I’ll dial for you.”
Her eyes bulge. Britanni has quite the repertoire of unattractive expressions.
“The only call I’m going to make is to security if you don’t give me that phone.” She rips the boarding pass from my hand. “And I will, Miz Kane.”
Clearly this woman did her stewardess training in boot camp. As if the condescending announcement of my name isn’t enough of a breach of my confidentiality rights, she actually reaches around my back and yanks my phone away. It’s her fault the man’s hair got pulled. She could have asked nicely. I stand, because being eye to eye is a key component in the art of negotiation.
“Sit down and fasten your seatbelt. We’re about to back out of the gate.”
“But we can’t leave! My business partner isn’t here yet!”
“I’ll be happy to deplane you so you can take the next flight together.” Bootcamp Britanni points at the exit door. I sincerely hope she didn’t pay for that amateurish manicure.
I give it one last shot. “If you let me keep my phone, I’ll bring you a ton of free samples from the haircare conference. They’ll definitely have something to help with your . . . issues.” I use my most professional sensitive tone so as not to offend. “What kind of processing does your stylist use?”
I lean down and pull a freshly-minted business card from my purse that one of the check-in squad had the nerve to call “oversize” although it contains no more than the bare necessities. I pared it down significantly because of the insane airline restrictions. Razors are an essential tool of any haircare professional. How is this not common knowledge?
Not everyone is blessed with a solid education, but since I know a thing or two about customer service, I offer Britanni a winning smile along with one of my pizza-scented Shear Genius cards.
She refuses it. “Sit.”
Now I’m a dog? Minus another star.
There’s no reasoning with a person who treats a customer paying full price like she isn’t even part of the human race. (Full promotional sale price with an extra 10% discount for signing up for the airline credit card, but you can’t fault a gal for being savvy.)
Eyes are on me. Normally I wouldn’t hesitate to promote my salon. But my instincts never fail and today the vibe I’m getting is alarm. These other travelers must know something about Bootcamp B. Both Candy and myself missing the opening day of the Juno Beach HairStravaganza would be a disaster. I sit.
Angel Hair leans against the window. He must be intuitive as well, and sense that I need some space right now.
BB isn’t satisfied. Should’ve known. Now she has her eyes on my purse. I give it a poke with my toe to better stow it under the tiny seat in front of me. It is nice, a genuine imitation Michel Kors in this year’s hottest pea green. I find the best stuff at the Santee Alley flea market. But just because the woman is employed by the airline doesn’t give her license to steal my bag. What is this world coming to? She already has my phone; my purse is non-negotiable.
Turns out the joke’s on her. She can’t lift it, which she makes a big show of. Her theatrics are ridiculous. I had no difficulty carrying it and she’s got a good twenty pounds on me.
“Definitely overweight,” she says.
If we were on friendlier terms, I might offer some tips on how to tone up while slimming down. As our relationship is strained, my heroism extends only to not pointing out that they make a matched set.
“Needs to go below,” she says.
“Nooo!”
Sympathetic heads ten rows in either direction whip round but they have no effect on heartless Britanni.
“Sit and buckle. You’ll get both of them back when we land.”
She stomps off-kilter down the aisle, my most precious belongings in tow. I’m breathless. My iPhone and I have never been parted since I got it two weeks ago. The case alone set me back over a hundred bucks, but image is important. I designed it myself: a stunning combination of zebra and neon pink rocker hair, with Shear Genius written in raised, jagged script.
I need something to calm myself. First choice is a head to style. With no tools but my bare hands, braiding will have to do. But my own head is out of the question. I spent three hours coiffing it into the perfect ‘do for my grand entrée at the HairStravaganza. Complex, yet elegant. The marcel waves turned out just right, and I used the perfect amount of styling wax to achieve maximum shine without a hint of greasiness on the upturned tail. Spraying the colors to make feathers was a snap, and the single red Betty Boop curl in the front is the crème de la crème, if I may be allowed to toot my own horn, which I’m sure I do rarely enough.
My seatmate’s luscious locks call to me like a Siren. He really likes the view out the window. It is a lovely vista of LA. The smog only adds to its mystique.
“Excuse me,” I say. “This may be an unusual request, but would you mind if . . .” I wiggle my fingers at his hair.
The man’s expression is blank, a considerable improvement over the previous one.
I hate to have to spell it out. First off, I do not want my question to be misinterpreted as flirtation. My salon is the only thing on the radar screen at this time.
Second, it might make me seem odd, like hair is some kind of kinky fetish. But it’s not. It’s my passion, my love. I never put a pair of scissors to a head without first saying a prayer that this will be the best cut I’ve ever done. Like Momma says, humility is a blessing. I know that which is given can also be taken away.
His hair is so long, he probably wouldn’t have noticed if I just started on a section. Too late now. “Would it be all right if I braided your hair?”
The corners of his lips twitch. When he isn’t scowling, he has a not-unattractive face with a straight nose, full lips and eyelashes no women can achieve without assistance. And those exotic cheekbones. Even nicer than I-will-love-you-forever-oh-wait-I-like-my-parents’-moolah-more Sebastián’s. I have to get my hands on that hair.
“It calms me down,” I explain, since he doesn’t reply.
“Do you need calming?” His voice is pleasant, like a QVC presenter’s. He seems genuinely interested in my answer.
“After that . . . woman stole my belongings, yes.”
“Ah.”
I’m not sure if that’s a “yes,” but as the plane jerks out of the gate, I take hold of the man’s hair reflexively. “This is my first flight, and my business partner didn’t make it onto the plane, but we’re scheduled to be at the HairStravaganza in a few short hours. Is that where you’re headed?”
“No.”
Too bad. His hair is so silky. And the smell. What is that spicy bit? Anise, maybe?
I have to find out what products he uses. I won’t rush him, however. I will allow the conversation to flow around naturally to haircare, like it always does.
The plane lurches again; I braid. It occurs to me that he hasn’t, in so many words, given consent. I lean forward to check his face. A pleasant grin communicates the answer. I have people skills, unlike some people who work in customer service but should clearly be in another line of work, like prison guard.
The rhythmic twisting keeps my mind off the stomach-churning liftoff. So much beautiful hair. It lasts the whole ascent.
Although it’s unergonomic to twist in my seat like that, I continue even after the ride smooths out. I know all about the dangers of such things: carpal tunnel, trigger finger, varicose veins. I pay attention and am careful to not overdo. I never wear anything higher than a four-inch heel. For this busy day of travel, my gold gladiator sandals with a modest platform sole were the obvious choice.
I’ve never encountered anything like this man’s hair. I don’t know exactly how much it would be worth to a wig-maker, but I’m guessing a couple thousand at least. I run my fingers through the silky tresses to undo the plaiting so I can start again.
The man clears his throat. I pretend not to hear. It can be rude to call attention to such things, like when a person is coughing. I hate it when people ask me if I’m okay. If I’m not okay, I’ll make the internationally recognized signal for choking. Otherwise, I’m fine and I don’t like people staring at me when my face is red and blotchy.
“Are you done?” he asks. “I feel like one of those doll heads little girls have.”
I scoff. They aren’t “doll heads.” They’re mannequin heads, an essential tool in the haircare learning process. I happen to have three in my checked luggage.
But he’s been generous, so I say politely, “Thank you for allowing me to do your hair. If you don’t mind my asking, what products do you use?”
“What products?” he echoes. “Are we in an infomercial?” His teeth are straight and white, but his smile is mocking.
A pity he’s so unfriendly; he’d make a great advertisement for our website. I stay polite for just that reason. “I meant, in your hair. What types of styling products do you use? Like, wax or mousse?”
He pulls his hair out of my reach. My fingers ache with longing. “None, but if I was going to use anything, I would definitely use moose wax.”
I go through my mental catalogue of haircare. “I’ve never heard of mousse wax. Who makes it?”
“Mooses.”
I don’t recognize the brand either. I remain silent.
“You know.” His large hands form antlers on his head. “Big, hairy things.”
With a polite nod, I turn back in my seat. Valuable minutes have been wasted when I should have been reading up on the latest hair trends from Tokyo.
I look for my bag, then remember where it is. That stewardess was cruel, inhuman, just like this uncongenial person. Abandoned by Candy, tortured by Britanni and trapped with a teasing man with to-die-for hair. What have I done to deserve this?
Out of desperation, I pluck the in-flight magazine from the seatback pocket. It’s mostly a waste, no real celebrities to critique and the regular people, well, like Momma always says, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. I would do the sudoku, except I don’t even have a pen. Thanks again, Brat-anni.
As I try to work it out in my head, Lovely Locks pulls a Sharpie from the breast pocket of his chambray shirt. I almost refuse it on principle, but there’s a crossword, too. I don’t like the way crosswords always try to trick you, but Momma says they’re good mind-sharpeners, and staying sharp is key in the realm of haircare where trends change faster than Lady Gaga’s ensembles. I figure if I don’t go too quickly, the puzzle might last me to the end of the flight.
“Thank you.” Even though I make it clear I’m not interested in reopening the conversation, I always remember my manners.
On second thought, it might be wise to stay friendly with him so he’ll let me braid again during the descent. I’ve heard it’s worse than liftoff.

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